California First Lady on Living Your Own Legacy

Then I think to myself, okay, you probably want me to talk about what it was like to grow up as a Kennedy, or live in the world headquarters of Team Shriver. What it was like when my mom invited dozens and hundreds of special Olympians over to play in our backyard. Or my dad was inviting peace corps volunteers over for dinner. Then I think, nah, that can't be it either, I don't think that's it.

Then I say: wait a minute. I bet you want me to talk about how a Democrat can stay married to a Republican for all these years.

Then I say to myself: that's a book! You're not getting that for free! No way. That's a book, a big book.

Then I say to myself, okay, if it's not the first lady-Kennedy-Shriver-Schwarzenegger thing, it must be the television thing.

You want me to talk about what it was like to work with Tom Brokaw or Katie Couric at NBC News. But then I think, hey, none of us are at NBC News anymore so it can't be that. I can't be talking about that.

Then I say okay, Maria, I know. They want you to talk about the issues of the day. Like many of you, I have very strong opinions on everything from health care reform to same sex marriage. From the death penalty to the war in Iraq. So just as I was starting to write all that up, this happened. Which of course changed everything.

I went into Starbucks, I go into Starbucks -- thank you for your sponsorship Starbucks. I went into Starbucks one morning and I go and order my espresso over ice, four shots. Four kids, four shots of espresso to get through the day.You can identify with that.

And this woman comes up to me all excited. And she goes, "Oh Miss Kennedy, Miss Kennedy can I speak with you. Oh, excuse me! Miss Kennedy-Shriver," she stammers.

And I'm standing there with my espresso and she goes, "Oh, oh, I mean, Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Governor, Mrs. First Lady. Oh oh, I just really don't know what to call you. It's all such a mouthful. I don't know what to call you!"

I said, "Tell me about it. It's a mouthful." I said, "Why don't you call me Maria?" And she said, "Oh, okay, Mrs. Kennedy-Governor, can I just ask you, like, one thing?"

And I said, "Yeah." And she said, "I love you, I love your whole family, I've always wanted to meet you so I could ask you just one thing."

And I said, wow this woman's wanted to meet me her whole life to ask me one thing. What could that be? And I said, "Go ahead. Ask me."

And she leaned in and she said, "What's it like to be friends with someone as famous as Oprah?"

True story. True story.

I was like, okay. That's okay. Arnold-Kennedy-Shriver-Oprah. I'll have another shot of espresso, it's okay, I'm cool.

It was funny, you know. But overtime, as I was walking to my car and afterwards, it actually became kind of a profound experience to me.

Because it made me realize, as long as I was trying to anticipate what you wanted from me, as long as I was trying to fulfill other people's expectations, I was in a losing game. A game that I'd been playing since I was a kid. In fact, a dear friend said to me, Maria, you have a choice right now in your life.

You can spend the rest of your life trying to measure up, trying to figure out what other people expect from you and trying to fulfill their expectations of you. Or, right now, you can make a decision to let all that go. And you can start talking about what you feel, what you know, and what you think.

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